Monday, March 30, 2009

This music

Found iPod. Yes, it is a dream come true. I will have to give it back to its owner. It mysteriously appeared in the trunk of my car. It belongs to someone I know; and now, I know, I and this someone are musical equals. Walks and mundane activities at home are now glorious; Beth Orton with all her Bjork-like cosmic gentleness, Johnny Cash with his goofy, simple and charming directness, Beck with his dark, moving, moody undertones, and Moby with his eccentric etherealness ... my life has been missing this iPod. It's probably been with me for six months or more, and I did not know I had it until Saturday.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


With the agony of the unanswered e-mail question behind me, and the acceptance of a New Way of Looking at It, I feel so much better. With a little help, the house is clean and I am welcoming in spring. I wrote on our kitchen chalkboard, "Hello, Spring!" which someone promptly wrote "I Hate You!" underneath. First I thought the person who wrote it hates me, but then she explained it is spring she hates because spring plants her allergic symptoms firmly into her head to flourish as the fresh warm air and sunshine nurture those symptoms into unbearable misery.
I always hated the feeling of normalcy and routine, especially with Saturdays when I was growing up. Weekends meant cleaning, laundry, and going to the grocery store. The smell and look of the gritty Comet cleaning powder we had to use to scrub the bathroom was the color of toothpaste, and the smell hurt my head. There was something so unbearable about the whole routine of Saturdays, especially the cleaning and going to the grocery store. It seemed to take forever, and it was usually gray and rainy and miserable. And I'm sure I looked at all the good stuff I wanted that I knew I couldn't get, like snack cakes and potato chips and soda and gum and candy bars. In the cereal aisle, with its perky colorful rainbow loop cereal and sugar smacks, and a long string of other untouchables, my sister and I had the chance to choose between Cheerios, Grape-Nuts, and Raisin Bran. If it were a cereal we were bringing home, neither the first nor the second ingredient could be "sugar." That significantly limited the possibilities. Now, of course, our children have to suffer through the same wholesomeness. Hopefully it will carry on down the line indefinitely.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Powerfully Insignificant, Unanswered E-mail

Today I gained a new perspective on my unanswered e-mail quandary. Yesterday and the day before, and the day before, I regarded my problem as one of always blaming myself when someone doesn't reply by answering me or even acknowledging acceptance of my message with a simple one-word statement like "aardvark" or "wonderful." Always looking for a way to re-frame my thoughts into a more positive or productive mindset, I feel good about it finally hitting me, my epiphany, which is probably quite obvious to many. It all came to me after reading the Daily Om. Today's message was written to address the problem of repeating the same mistakes over and over. It said we feel like we repeat our mistakes over and over again, even though they appear in different circumstances with different people; we tend to apply a filter of what we know from the past and apply it to the present, and so we can't move forward or see past what we see as a recurring problem. I was able to relate that concept to my writing to people after they already have a history of not responding. It immediately turned into realizing that I have a hard time letting go when something's not working, whether it's a job or a relationship or a way of dealing with a problem. That people have brushed me off before, intentionally or not, and I keep looking for more from them. I've never looked at it as not learning from what's really going on; instead I've been wondering what's wrong with me, and if I were a little better, funnier, smarter, more witty, better looking, more confident, or anything like that, then I would have a response from that person, or a different and better outcome, and that person would want to indulge me in spending some amount of time with me, engaging at whatever level, even if it would be as insignificant as responding "fine" to an inquiry into the state of things. When I wrote that e-mail, I knew it might not result in an answer, because it had happened before, many times with him. And yet I sent it anyway. I had received lots of responses from this person. There were also a few phone calls. Some of them returned, some not. All I needed to do to avoid this discontent, before I reached out, was stop expecting things from people who don't typically give back or follow through, know I would be disappointed, and choose to avoid even putting myself in that position to be disappointed. It's such a subtle, but important thing, learning to let go. I wonder how different my life would be if I only ever reached out to people I knew would respond or be receptive. I guess life will never be that easy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


On Sunday I got a huge change of scenery, took a seven-hour trip up north to Ann Arbor and stayed tired the whole time I was there. The trip back today only took six hours. Only a handful of people knew I was going.
About a year and a half ago an old friend called me unexpectedly when I was in Ann Arbor on a trip. I hear from him about once or twice a year, if that. This time yesterday, again in Ann Arbor, he wrote to me by e-mail out of the blue to tell me he was in my hometown, where he had apparently never been until now. The coincidences just never stop.
I wrote to another friend yesterday but have received no response. Again I am left agonizing over whether I did or said something to make him mad, wondering why he won't answer. Again I try to tell myself, "It's him. It's not me. It's him. It's not me." Why does that never work? As I read over my words, I realize how silly they sound that I'd be obsessing over an un-answered e-mail. The answer goes to something much deeper, which includes years of history surrounding communication with him. I don't seem to be getting the message that I shouldn't be reaching out, that I am not getting answers for a reason. Maybe for more than one reason. It's really hard to let go sometimes. However I try to think about it, I can't seem to not blame myself. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't try.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

That Great Old Thing

Yesterday I drove to a nearby town to watch Gran Torino at the movie theater. It played here for awhile, but I never felt like going because I knew it was going to be a heavy, dark drama, and not too likely there would be anything upbeat, positive, funny or all that interesting about it. I had heard it was not one of Clint Eastwood's best movies, but that it was good and worth seeing. My dad was coming to visit, so I thought it would be a good thing to do with him. I remember going to the theater in the late 70s or early 80s to see Billy Bronco with him when I was about seven or eight. I thought it was going to be terrible. It was probably one of the first, if not the first, movies I saw at the theater. I remember watching Every Which Way But Loose and a whole string of a whole bunch of other Clint Eastwood movies with him. So, this gave me a good reason to watch Gran Torino, even if I had to drive 45 minutes to do it. We were about a half hour late, so we probably missed the first 10 minutes, but I didn't think we'd miss too much, because I could already tell it was one of those tension-building stories that would have a slow beginning and an important ending. One of the things I liked about it was the buildup of tension and suspense. If I were very young and watching it, I know Clint Eastwood's character, Walt, would have scared me. The anger in him was always boiling under the surface like an angry man's fury does. I don't like angry men. You're always afraid of the violence when he snaps, and you won't know what is going to get broken or how bad it might hurt. We, the viewers, aren't supposed to like him, especially, but to admire his absolute courage and directness. There was an annoying military drum-roll sound effect a few times in the movie when he got got angry and got his gun and pointed it at somebody. I'm not sure why it was important to have him show his biases toward people of other races. Was the point to show that he got over it in a lightning-quick instant, after so many years of living as a biased person, because it turned out his neighbors of another race were pretty nice and he had a lot in common with them? Was the point to show that the names he used for people of various ethnicities and nationalities just a game to him? Since he did the same things to his so-called friends, who were an Italian barber and an Irish construction site manager, maybe it was. I just didn't get the appeal of the car, Walt's prized possession, the Gran Torino. How many of us even knew what a Gran Torino was before we knew about this movie? The shot at the end of Walt's granddaughter hoping with anticipation she would inherit the car was too unbelievable. I can tell you with absolute certainty that that young girl would not want the Gran Torino, let alone be seen in it. It was a very male-oriented car, and I'm sure it had a great engine or something, but I could tell this girl wouldn't have cared about that -- but of course, Clint Eastwood movies are male-oriented anyway, so I probably shouldn't complain when it doesn't appeal to me. I can forgive, as with all Clint Eastwood and, for that matter, all James Bond movies, that they are oriented toward men and appreciate them for what they are. But the movie makers in Gran Torino couldn't make me feel anything about the girl's anticipation but disbelief and contempt for their mistake. It reminds me of when older relatives think you'll really love a certain gift of an old thing, and make a really big deal out of giving it to you. This old thing is dusty and smelly and old and doesn't work the way it should, and probably never did, and you have to smile and say thank you and explain how much you really appreciated receiving it, all the while wondering how you can get rid of it or not use it without anyone noticing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is Black Walnut an Acquired Taste, Or Is It Just Really Bad?

A few days ago I was shopping for ice cream. I thought I'd give black walnut-flavored ice cream a try. I like pistachio ice cream. I like butter pecan ice cream. I like all ice cream, nuts or not. Any ice cream with nuts has been very good. Black Walnut ice cream is not. My grandmother used to make black walnut fudge at Christmastime, and I did not like it. I thought I didn't like it because it was something an adult would like that a child wouldn't, like spicy spaghetti or coffee or black pepper. Black Walnut ice cream is really bad. It tastes like black walnuts. It tastes like I think dirt might taste like, and bitter. But someone's got to finish it, or else it'll just sit there in the freezer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Smallest Coincidence Is More Interesting Than No Coincidence At All

I saw the greatest two things yesterday. First, on my walk, some green buds awakening from the brown, dry branches. Green Life! It has returned at last! I took a picture of it I was so excited (I have to get inspiration for excitement from somewhere). Later, I saw the same kind of plant in front of my house showing its greenness to me as well.
Today I had lunch at a crowded meeting, and sat at a small table for two. As I was getting ready to sit down, alone, someone I didn't know asked if he could sit at the table. The stranger who joined me turned out to be someone I'd talked to on the phone a few times about six months ago. Then, in the evening, he reappeared by picking up his daughter at the same place I go to every night to pick up mine. I wonder what else I'm missing by not being more observant. In the smallest of towns, and the biggest of cities, there are coincidences all around.
After lunch I had an unusually long conversation with someone about Mascarpone cheese. He had never heard of it, and had also never heard of tiramisu.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I set four mouse traps in the garage after finding hints all over the car and garage that they had been roaming and foraging. A lot. I have my fail-proof method of catching mice: put smoky Muenster cheese on top of peanut butter on the trap of a good-old-fashioned mouse trap. The mouse can't steal away with the cheese because the peanut butter is kind of like glue. I put the four traps out yesterday and haven't had one bite yet. I think it's because I failed to get smoky Muenster cheese. I just had regular Muenster cheese that has a pretty mild smell. Still, it ought to have some draw, since there isn't really a whole lot else in the garage that would be as appealing as peanut butter and cheese. At Christmas time, the mice or mouse got into the trunk of my car and into a peanut butter cup wrapped up in its paper covering. There were tiny little teeth marks in a couple of them. I had purchased a bag of about eight, to be distributed among the household members for the usual Christmas go-round, which met with tragic consequences. I thought having a cat around would do the trick. I sent her out to the garage about once a week to pry into the corners and sniff around. Next thing I know, three months later, the mice or mouse had made its way through the car, through the car trash bag, and around where the drinks go in between the front seats. I spent about an hour cleaning the car out as well as I could Wednesday night. De-mousing the garage isn't going to be as easy as I thought it would. On the other hand, perhaps the mice de-moused themselves from my garage, since the weather is finally getting warmer. If I were a mouse, I guess I'd rather spend winter inside a dull 52-degree garage than the vast iceland, and, in early spring, outside in the 52-degree great outdoors.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stressful work day yesterday. I went to Lavender Cafe last night, and a trip to Asian Market followed. A trip to Asian Market has never happened without the funny fishy rotten smell around. I was tired and in a lot of physical pain. Fell asleep watching a documentary about famous dead artists. Still fuming about the broken flower pot that disappeared from the back porch. Still in pain today. Thinking about how life changes so quickly, and nothing stays the same, yet things feel so stagnant and unchanging right now. The only comfort lies in the fact that everything changes, nothing is permanent, even though that is totally unapparent right now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Today the wall in my backyard was neatly stacked up as it was before it fell down early Monday morning. The area was all neat and tidy, a few trees has been replaced, and hay was spread around to make up for the grass the workers displaced. However, a plant pot of mine was gone from the porch. It was my favorite pot, but it was broken in two equally sized pieces. I had been waiting to find my Gorilla glue to do anything with it. After about a year and a half of not knowing where the Gorilla glue was (I was in no hurry for it), I finally found it last week. I looked outside this morning and was admiring the work of the wall people, and noticed the plant pot was gone. I had kept the broken pot inside a bigger plastic pot. The plastic pot had moved to the other side of the porch, and the broken one was just gone. What would someone want with a broken pot? A broken pot I had every intention of repairing? I don't get it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Ethereal Visit to Fictional 19th-Century China

I finished reading Snow Flower and The Secret Fan last night. The only reason I read the book is that my friend told me that it was a quick read, and that once I started reading it, I would find it so engrossing I wouldn't be able to put it down until I finished it. The book started slowly and painfully and I didn't think I was ever going to get interested. I was thinking it was another one of those all-drama, exclusively female, sappy fluffy stories like "Beaches" or "Steel Magnolias," neither of which I could tolerate very well. That may have had something to do with the fact that I was a teenager when those movies came out, and I was completely unable to relate to that kind of tedious sentimentality, which was what I was afraid I was going to feel while reading Snow Flower. However, about halfway through the book, it had hooked my interest and I knew it was no Steel Magnolias.
When I woke up early Monday morning (4 a.m.), I really wanted to find out what was going to happen. I read it for about an hour. After I fell back asleep, I woke up again around 7:30 a.m. and still really wondered what was going to happen next. I was getting close to the end by that time. When I was at work, I wished I could be at home, finishing the book. I started reading as soon as I got home. I sat in the kitchen, tears streaming down my face about the sad parts, as I knew the book was coming to an end. Part of the sadness stemmed from how I started to believe that it was just going to end very sadly, but it did not. People around me always think it's funny when I cry because of a story in a book. Luckily, no one at home noticed this time. To me, books are much more personal than movies are, because what the writers and characters say and go through is so much more intense and believable. I don't know if it's necessarily a sign of a good book if it brings me to tears, because I'd rather not be sad. It would be great if more books would leave me feeling exhilarated and giddy. Snow Flower helps focus on the fact that pain and sadness are inevitable in life. The main character is surrounded by death and tragedy, two constants in her life. I suppose reading what she's been through helps me realize how much tragedy and death I have been able to avoid thus far. Even a day after finishing it, I still felt pangs of sadness about only the story. As silly as it seems, at least I don't cry about movies.

The Wall Came Down

Sleeping from Sunday to Monday I was tired. I woke up sometime after 4 a.m. and felt wide awake, which is extremely rare for me. I sleep lightly, but well. I believe I was dreaming about being inside my old elementary school and being evacuated because the ceiling was falling in. I could hear it. When I woke up, I could hear the wind. I read my book for about an hour and then fell back asleep at 5:30 a.m. Later, at around 8:30 a.m., I went to the back porch to bring some chairs inside the house because I thought it looked like rain would be coming. I was focusing on the chairs. The youngest member of the household was with me, and she noticed that something was different in our yard and the neighbors' adjoining yard. Half of a retaining wall had collapsed into it. Our half was in tact, but the other half seemed to be the victim of a late-night landslide and was now a huge pile of rubble. I wondered if the sound of it falling was the product of my elementary-school-ceiling dream. People are fixing the wall right now, stacking the giant cement blocks in my yard as they figure out what to do.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The door was wide open today. Our scaredy cat lurks by the door and sniffs outside, rushing in at the slightest disturbance outside. She so longs to go outside, and then when she gets there she's overwhelmed and makes sure she stays close to the door.
Last night I fell asleep by being questioned and having a conversation about my favorite this, and my favorite that. Favorite seafood? Shrimp. Favorite animal? Cat. Favorite fruit? Cherry. Favorite vegetable? Roasted, sweet red pepper. It's funny how I could have all those things, and all of them could be bad.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I ended the day with a two-mile walk on a nondescript trail. I was excited in the morning about waiting til I could go outside and enjoy the sunny weather. By the time I got outside, the sky had darkened. My blister and my feelings still sting just a little, but both are almost healed. At about 6 p.m., the ominous sky gave way to a slanting bright light of sun that peeked through only from the horizon, from just under the dark clouds. It was worth waiting for. There was something in the air, the way the dead grass smelled, that brought my mind to a time when I used to play outside when I was a little girl living on a big farm. I had an apple tree that I claimed as mine. There was a regular-sized yard, a pine tree that my sister claimed as hers, a garden, a berry bush, hills, barns, a creek, cats, a turkey, chickens, cows, and weeds. The sweet smell of the dry grass, combined with the dull, grayish-brown pre-spring balminess, brought me back all of the sudden to a time when I had nothing better to do than to wander outside through the country, gaze at the sky and gather weeds.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Today I went for two walks. One, on a trail on the way to lunch. Two, on a track orbiting a playground. It was about 38. Much better temperature to take walks than yesterday's extreme frostiness. I thought kids could eat for 99 cents tonight at Damon's, so we went for dinner and the little one ordered the kids' salmon. It turned out that only part of the kids' menu was priced at 99 cents tonight; the kids' salmon was the full price of $7. So the whole point of it would have been to save $6. I guess I can live with the difference, but I do feel a little bit baited and switched. Last time we went, I believe the waitress just told us that children eat for 99 cents on Wednesdays. And it just so happened there was a local basketball game and we were at a sports restaurant, so sports were thrust upon us like at no other time we had in a restaurant.
I thought about how some people (read: men) think and live their whole lives in sports speak, and I am oblivious. I think I understand a lot about life and then I watch basketball, and I'm not sure I get it. The competition, the commentary, the strategy, the supportive comments and the disparaging comments -- I suppose some people have that on their minds all the time, incorporating it all into their everyday lives, and I do not.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Today I struggled, argued with myself, to shake off mildly negative feelings I don't want to have. I tried to take advice I heard this morning, to see the negative thoughts for what they are, and let them pass. I just can't do that so suddenly. I have to keep reminding myself, over and over and over again, that this, too, shall pass. Maybe I haven't quite figured it all out yet, so the negativity of the thought processes and the events that triggered them keep coming back to me until I do. I took a quick walk in the 28-degree cold today, with socks that have holes, and sandals with no backs, since I have a crippling blister on the back of one of my ankles as a result of taking a long walk with unbroken-in shoes this past weekend. By the time the heel blister heals, I think I can count on my negativity healing itself, too. The sharp pain of blisters, bruises, cuts and visceral bad thoughts have a life cycle of about three days.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Today Was The Day One of Us Forgot to Wear Shoes

This morning the youngest member of the household, age 10 and a half, went to school without shoes. She forgot to put on shoes. Hm. Do I get mad or do I laugh? I couldn't help but laugh. Is it my fault I didn't make sure she had shoes when she left? Do I have to check for that? Did I think I had to check for that, with someone who is 10 and a half?
About two blocks from the school, she looked down at her feet, looking for her shoes so she could put them on. She looked down and around, and then covered her fingers over her mouth in quiet contemplation as we both realized what happened. She usually carries them from the house to the car, since she has a lot of tying to do and we're usually running late. We were already just barely going to make it on time. If I turned around to go back home with her to get the shoes, and brought her back to school, she would be at least 20 minutes late. I had to make a quick decision about which would be better, to be 20 minutes late with shoes, or on time and without shoes. I decided it would be better for her to be on time. She had black socks on, and long, black pants that covered her feet, so I thought perhaps she could inconspicuously go to her classroom, and I could go home and bring her shoes back to the school. When I got back to the school, about 15 minutes later, I brought the shoes in with a bag, along with her clarinet, which she had also mistakenly left behind (in the car, though, and not at home). The school secretary called for her to come down and pick up the package. When she came down, I whispered to her, "Did anyone notice?" She said, "Yes, as soon as I walked into the classroom, the teacher yelled, 'Where are your shoes?'" A few of her classmates laughed at her and questioned her, but when she recounted it to me later, she seemed unfazed. What would you have done?

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